Sri Lankan Opposition agrees to form all-party interim govt after Rajapaksa’s resignation

Colombo, July 11 (FN Agency) Sri Lanka’s Opposition parties on Sunday announced that they had decided to form an all-party interim government after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to resign in the wake of unprecedented street protests, Khaleej Times reported. During the upheaval the homes of both the leaders’ were stormed by irate protesters and damaged over the government’s mishandling of the nation’s worst economic crisis. Opposition parties on Sunday held emergency talks to find a way to steer the country forward amidst the unprecedented economic and political crisis after President Rajapaksa on Saturday informed Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena from an undisclosed location that he will be stepping down coming Wednesday.

“We agreed in principle to form a government of unity with all parties’ participation for an interim period,” Wimal Weerawansa of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party’s breakaway group said, adding that “This will be a government where all parties are represented”. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, another leader of the SLPP’s breakaway group, said they need not wait for Rajapaksa’s resignation on July 13. President Rajapaksa, has gone underground in the face of massive public anger over the unprecedented economic crisis since the country’s independence in 1948. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also offered to resign. The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya party said they held extensive internal discussions. The leaders of political parties represented in Parliament are to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the convening of the House for the transition of power for a new government after Rajapaksa said he will resign.

Speaker Abeywardena conveyed to Rajapaksa on Saturday that Opposition party leaders want him to resign after anti-government protesters stormed his offices and the official residence. Under the Constitution, the incumbent prime minister would automatically become the acting president for a short time until Parliament votes and appoint a successor to the president. However, protesters have also demanded the resignation of prime minister Wickremesinghe. The resignation of both the president and prime minister would mean that Speaker Abeywardena would become the acting president. Wickremesinghe has expressed willingness to resign when a new government is formed. He stressed on Saturday that to deal with the International Monetary Fund on an assistance programme and to deal with shortages of essentials including food and fuel, it was important not to leave a vacuum.